Fighting cravings seems to be a never ending theme that I encounter daily in my practice. I find that learning the things that cause them (everyone has different triggers) can be empowering. Knowing the causes can help you create a toolbox of solutions. Having to fight daily cravings is like using willpower to get through life, definitely not something anyone has time for. Read on to see if you may have a few of the common causes of cravings in your life … and learn what to do about them!
Happy Casomorphins: Ever suffered with a serious case of the cheese cravings? Know anyone who will fight you over the last piece of brie? When you digest casein (a protein found in dairy), the body produces opiates called casomporphins which leaves you with an “opiate like feel good” feeling. Now, we can’t rewire the human body, but we can change a few behaviors to keep this craving under control.
- Try keeping your “trigger” dairy items out of your house.
- Buy individual portions of your favorites. It seems that these days, everything from cheddar to goat cheese can be found in individual packages. While more expensive, this can give you a good visual on appropriate portion size as it is super easy to “accidentally” cut a bigger slice of the big block of cheese.
- Use it as a special occasion food. Search for fun occasional recipes to make on the weekend or for a party, or order your favorite cheese on a salad or chicken at a restaurant. Little simple changes like this can really help keep your physiological cravings in check while letting your brain know you are not in deprivation mode.
Neurotransmitter Dysfunction: Due to the rampant increase of IBS and leaky gut syndrome, many people suffer from neurotransmitter dysfunction. About 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut to be used in the brain, so the gut brain connection is vital to calming cravings. A few supplements have shown to be very helpful in decreasing cravings due to neurotransmitter dysfunction.
- 5-HTP: a naturally occurring amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin. This is also used to treat depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, migraines, as well as calming cravings. Be aware that if you are taking SSRI medications, you must consult your physician first before taking this supplement.
- Magnesium: It is estimated that 70-80% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Chocolate cravings are one of the telltale signs of magnesium deficiency (other symptoms include calcium deficiency (because the body needs magnesium to actually use the calcium), muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, and anxiety). HERE is a great article on the different types of magnesium and what they are good for. (http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/types-of-magnesium/). One of the best food sources for magnesium is raw cacao powder. Add it to fruit smoothies for an added magnesium benefit and a chocolate fix in the afternoon.
Imbalanced Gut Bacteria: When the “bad” bacteria overtake the good guys, the gut becomes unable to properly absorb all of the nutrients from your food to create satiety and neurotransmitter balance. Much of our satisfaction (not just fullness from food, but the actual brain satisfaction) comes from vitamin absorption. If your gut is not healthy, a healthy diet may not be enough to deal with imbalanced bacteria based cravings.
- Probiotics: The best solution to this problem is simple. Take a probiotic. Talk to your physician about which one is right for you, and make sure to get one that has to be refrigerated for optimum levels of live bacteria.
- Eat fermented foods. Kimchee and kombucha tea are wonderful additions to a healthy diet that help to feed the good bacteria. With kombucha, just make sure to choose the lower sugar varieties. A little bit goes a long way with both of these, so no need to eat a ton.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Fight fire with fire. Find ways to get on top of what might be causing your cravings instead of fighting them once they have started. There are many causes of cravings. This article highlights a few of the common ones. Take a few steps this week to prevent cravings by following a few of the suggestions above. Let's stop cravings before they start!